Dead at 74

DD Dominick de­signer Dominick Avel­lino dies in car crash.

WWD Digital Daily - - Front Page - BY LISA LOCK­WOOD

Dominick Avel­lino, who was known for his youth­ful sports­wear in the Sev­en­ties and Eight­ies and de­signed un­der both the DD Dominick and his name­sake brand, died Thurs­day in a car crash in Sal­is­bury, Conn. He was 74.

State po­lice said Avel­lino, of Lee, Mass., was driv­ing north on Route 41, near Lo­gan Road in Sal­is­bury, Conn., when his 2009 Subaru Forester went off the road and hit a tree. Avel­lino was trans­ported to Sharon Hos­pi­tal, where he was pro­nounced dead, ac­cord­ing to state po­lice.

He is sur­vived by his hus­band, Jef­frey Sch­wa­ger, who was also his busi­ness part­ner in their sports­wear and retail busi­ness.

Avel­lino, whose par­ents were from

Ponza, Italy, was born and raised in New York City. Af­ter high school, he did land­scape gar­den­ing near Wood­stock, N.Y. and got in­volved in the health food world, work­ing with crafts and plants. There wasn’t much to do at night up there, so his friend taught him how to cro­chet and he started mak­ing jewelry.

Avel­lino teamed with Sch­wa­ger, whom he met on a blind date, and moved back to New York where he opened a shop on East 50th Street in 1969 sell­ing jewelry and knits made by him­self, friends and friends of friends. The store later moved to East 60th Street in 1972, be­tween Sec­ond and Third Av­enues. Avel­lino named it DD Dominick be­cause he used to stut­ter as a kid. The shop at­tracted celebri­ties such as Carly Si­mon, Berry Beren­son, Ethel Kennedy, Paula Pren­tiss and Diana Vree­land, who had it writ­ten up in Vogue. Af­ter that, “Sev­enth Av­enue came call­ing,” said Sch­wa­ger.

Avel­lino briefly de­signed the Huk-a-Poo sweater col­lec­tion in 1970, and soon af­ter he and Sch­wa­ger opened a whole­sale knitwear com­pany called DD Dominick, which was grow­ing very quickly. They re­al­ized they needed help and in 1973 en­listed

Irv­ing Ben­son of Ben­son & Part­ners, whose other lines were Carol Horn and Out­lander. Af­ter Ben­son & Part­ners closed the DD Dominick di­vi­sion in 1975, Sch­wa­ger and Avel­lino re­tained the DD Dominick name and opened DD Dominick Sports­wear, a con­tem­po­rary line, and Dominick Avel­lino for de­signer dresses.

DD Dominick, which was known for its sweater de­signs and silk prints, would show at the Four Sea­sons around the pool and the Rain­bow Room, said Sch­wa­ger. Later on, other back­ers were Al-Mae Corp. and SMI. At its peak, DD Dominick’s busi­ness gen­er­ated $18 mil­lion.

Fern Mal­lis, an in­dus­try con­sul­tant said, “He was a fab­u­lous knitwear de­signer. He made great sweaters, and it was in the hey­day of him and Clo­vis Ruf­fin. He was al­ways just a re­ally spe­cial, very tal­ented guy.”

Jef­frey Banks re­called know­ing Avel­lino in the early Sev­en­ties. “I came to New York in 1971, three weeks out of high school and two months be­fore I started col­lege. DD Dominick and the whole block of 60th Street, be­tween Third Av­enue and Sec­ond Av­enue, was the hottest piece of real estate. What I loved about his store is he had this great knitwear and sweaters. He was one of the first to do these beau­ti­ful long cardi­gan sweater coats for women. But the sweater that he made that ev­ery­body I knew had — and I had two or three of them in dif­fer­ent col­ors — was a hooded pullover sweat­shirt with a pouch in the front that was all knit, and came in dozens of col­ors. It wasn’t a lot of money. I had a red one, I think I had a yel­low one. It was uni­sex. Ev­ery­one loved that sweater. You would go into Bloom­ing­dale’s on a Satur­day af­ter­noon, and you’d see 10 peo­ple in that sweater in the course of a half-hour.

“His clothes were ca­sual, but they had a real chic­ness to them. You could see peo­ple of dif­fer­ent ages wear­ing them. You could see old peo­ple and younger peo­ple, too. He was the pre­cur­sor to the whole Lau­ren aes­thetic in terms of his knitwear,” added Banks.

Stan Herman, de­signer at Stan Herman Stu­dio, said, “I knew him per­son­ally. He was one of the nicest, sweet­est and most tal­ented and undis­cov­ered de­sign­ers I knew. He de­served a ma­jor ca­reer but the ball doesn’t bounce in ev­ery­body’s back­yard all the time. I al­ways ad­mired his clothes. He was a real dress­maker and had a soft-sided per­son­al­ity.”

DD Dominick gen­er­ated a lot of press for its col­lec­tions in the Sev­en­ties. In one WWD cover (pic­tured above), WWD wrote that Avel­lino played with squares, rec­tan­gles, cir­cles and tri­an­gles in his DD Dominick and higher-priced Dominick Avel­lino col­lec­tions, call­ing the shapes “young fun and fresh.”

In a WWD in­ter­view with Avel­lino by Mar­ian McEvoy in 1974, she wrote, “He strad­dles his desk chair in the man­ner of a spaghetti-West­ern idol, chews sug­ar­less gum non­stop, and drops funny lines like, ‘I’m pretty clever, but a ge­nius I ain’t’ at ir­reg­u­lar in­ter­vals.” She wrote that Avel­lino “not only per­son­i­fies SA’s un­der-35-yearold en­er­gies, but has achieved su­per­star sta­tus with the volatile pack of fash­ion-party-dance peo­ple cur­rently car­ry­ing on in New York.” She said if you tell Avel­lino that his DD Dominick has been clas­si­fied as “hot stuff” to lots of ma­jor ju­nior con­tem­po­rary mer­chan­dis­ers, he coun­ters with “Oh ya?”

In that same in­ter­view, Avel­lino said young de­sign­ers were a rel­a­tively new phe­nom­e­non in “the fash­ion cap­i­tal of the world” and hav­ing trav­eled the globe, he found there was no spirit like the spirit in Amer­ica. “My best de­sign in­flu­ences comes from 12-year-old kids in the U.S. They re­ally have it to­gether,” he said. “The fact that there are young peo­ple like me and Stephen Bur­rows and Clo­vis Ruf­fin on Sev­enth Av­enue is fan­tas­tic. And the fact that we’re all do­ing what we want is even more fan­tas­tic,” he told WWD. He said he de­signed for women 18 to 35 years old “who love to go danc­ing,” and thinks of fash­ion as a to­tal style, not merely a wardrobe.

“Fash­ion isn’t a good word any­way. It’s too much of an ‘in’ and ‘out’ word. I like to use ‘style’ in­stead — it’s in­volved in more than hem­lines,” he told WWD.

DD Dominick’s fash­ion shows were con­sid­ered a “manda­tory event” for the fash­ion pack, wrote McEvoy, who noted that there were usu­ally twice as many spec­ta­tors as chairs at his shows, and at least two ea­ger fans for ev­ery se­ri­ous buyer. “It’s hard for me to be in­volved with all these peo­ple.

I’m re­ally not an ex­tro­vert. But I guess I’m re­ally a de­signer now — ev­ery time I have a fash­ion show, I sud­denly have about 200 new friends,” he said.

Af­ter de­sign­ing un­der the DD Dominick la­bel, he later used his full name, Dominick Avel­lino, for a line of light­hearted sports­wear that he de­signed for a com­pany called Worlds Apart. That line in­clude hand-knit cot­ton sweaters, cot­ton flan­nel pants, silk shirts and short suede skirts. Some of the sports­wear de­picted ele­phants and mon­keys and had the words “Love” and “Sim­patico.”

Once he left fash­ion in 1989, Avel­lino opened a pho­tog­ra­phy busi­ness in the Berk­shires called Dominick Avel­lino Stu­dio. He di­vided his time be­tween the Berk­shires and an apart­ment in New York.

Avel­lino was cre­mated, and Sch­wa­ger said a me­mo­rial ser­vice will be planned in a cou­ple of weeks.

Dominick Avel­lino on the run­way of his fall

1980 DD Dominick Col­lec­tion in New York.

A WWD cover fea­tur­ing Dominick

Avel­lino in 1977.

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